East Rochester’s Architect: Harold Dygert

Jim Burlingame

When Harold Dygert began planning and designing a building known as Parkside Manor in 1972, he said, “I want to do something for East Rochester.” 

A lifetime resident of East Rochester, Dygert began his career as a builder in 1933. The Forest Hills section south of the village, with its unique architecture, was his first endeavor. It was followed by the Sherwood Tract homes off Fairport Road and the Alexandrian Apartments in Brighton. 

He built almost 600 houses in his lifetime. Harold passed away in August of 1989 at 100 years old. Dygert’s homes have achieved wide recognition for their architectural beauty. Pictures of 12 of his creations were shown at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City as classic examples of balance architecture.

The crown achievement of his architecture is the large Forest Hills development south of the village. There he built over 100 English Tudor-style homes using his own designs. As the area contained many large oak trees, he aptly named it Forest Hills. 

The Capri Apartments were also Dygert’s doing. He owned and transformed the Rialto Theater, which was built in 1919 by Harry Eyer and closed in 1966, into an apartment complex. People said there would be a huge collapse as the large open theater area was converted to three floors. He named it the Capri after the new name given to Rialto after it was remodeled a few years earlier.

In 1972, Dygert proposed the construction of a proprietary home for adults on the corner of Main Street and East Avenue, formally the site of the Dairy Queen ice cream stand. He built it as an adult home to serve mature adults in the geriatric population. After Dygert had a problem renting the apartments for senior living, it was sold as a licensed adult home to the New York State Department of Social Services. The level of care was then designed to provide basic personal care and supervision for residents who need assistance with their daily routine and cannot live independently. 

The Manor has capacity for 160 residents and includes 11 lounges, a spacious dining area and is staffed by over 50 employees. In 1982, the Home Leasing Corp. bought the building and later it was sold to the DePaul Mental Health Services, who operate it today. Of all the houses and apartments he built over the years, he said, “this one gave me the most satisfaction, because it gave me the opportunity to help people.”

Harold Dygert will certainly be remembered as one of the great contributors to the East Rochester community through his architectural talents.

Jim Burlingame is historian for the town/village of East Rochester.

Original sign on Fairport Road advertising homes in the Forest Hills tract.